Leeds United: Injured Bellusci targeting Fulham return

Giuseppe Bellusci. PIC: Tony Johnson
Giuseppe Bellusci. PIC: Tony Johnson
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Giuseppe Bellusci is targeting a return to fitness before Saturday’s clash with Fulham as Leeds United head coach Neil Redfearn looks to address the defensive failings which invited a heavy defeat at Ipswich Town.

Bellusci missed United’s visit to Portman Road with a hamstring strain and was absent from a side that conceded four times in 48 minutes and paid the price for a fragile performance.

Redfearn recalled Jason Pearce after deciding not to gamble on Bellusci, pairing Pearce with Liam Cooper in the centre of defence, but the solidity shown during an impressive win over Derby County seven days earlier evaporated in Suffolk.

United took an early lead through Mirco Antenucci’s eighth goal of the season but Daryl Murphy equalised with a free header soon after and a penalty from David McGoldrick – awarded for a foul by Stephen Warnock on Paul Anderson – edged Ipswich in front on 26 minutes.

Murphy then put the game beyond Leeds with a soft effort on the stroke of half-time and a tap-in from Christophe Berra early in the second half rounded off Ipswich’s 4-1 victory.

Bellusci was a doubt for much of the week leading up to the game but his injury is not serious and Redfearn is crossing his fingers that the Italian recovers in time for Fulham’s visit to Elland Road this weekend.

Redfearn, who admitted that he had intended to use an unchanged side at Ipswich, said: “He’s got a bit of a hamstring strain but we don’t think it’s a bad one.

“It was always going to be a couple of weeks or so but hopefully he’ll be available for the Fulham game.

“We’ll have to see how he’s doing this week. It’ll be touch and go.

“After the performance and the result we had against Derby, the last thing I wanted to do was change the side but it was enforced.

“In an ideal scenario I’d have kept the same team but you have to accept these things. Jason came in and played his part.”

Pearce had been a fixture in United’s line-up prior to Redfearn dropping him ahead of a 2-0 win over Derby and he captained the club through the first four months of the season after inheriting the armband under former head coach David Hockaday.

But Stephen Warnock, who led Leeds in their victory against Derby, retained the captaincy at Portman Road and looks likely to stay in the role for the foreseeable future.

“Steve skippered a side who played really well last weekend and I didn’t want to make changes if I didn’t have to,” Redfearn said.

“Jason had been out of the side and he came back in but Steve kept the armband. That was the long and short of it.”

Redfearn attempted to shore up his side after Ipswich’s fourth goal, introducing Rodolph Austin from the bench and preventing any further concessions.

“We had to do something because it could have gone to five or six,” he said.

“The manner of the goals we conceded was disappointing.

If we could have come in at half-time 2-1 down then maybe we could have done something about it and got at them in the second half.

“I’m gutted because I expected us to give a far better account of ourselves.

“But we’ve got to iron out the problems and go again. It happens.”